Amanda Gunn's revelatory debut showcases a daring new voice. Each suite of poems treats its subject matter with a discerning, mature hand: from lyrical sonnets about the life of Harriet Tubman to severe, confessional prose poems about mental illness. An inspired, shocking, and urgently needed collection.
Told in six parts, Things I Didn't Do with This Bodysings in myriad voices and forms--ragged columns rich with syncopated internal rhyme, crisp formal sonnets, and the angular shapes of a stream-of-pill-induced-consciousness. Bedecked in Fenty and Shalimar, Amanda Gunn's startling debut, Things I Didn't Do with This Body, invites you to read with all of your senses and gives fresh meaning to the phrase a body of work. Told in six parts, this collection sings in myriad voices and forms--ragged columns rich with syncopated internal rhyme, crisp formal sonnets, and the angular shapes of a stream-of-pill-induced-consciousness. Both tender and emotionally raw, these poems interweave explorations of family and interrogations of history, including an unforgettable sequence that meditates on the life of Harriet Tubman. With Tubman's portrait perched above her writing desk, Gunn pens poems that migrate from South to North, from elegy to prayer, from borrowed shame to self-acceptance. Writing with frankness and honesty, Gunn finds no thought, no memory, too private: a father's verbal blow, a tense visit to a gynecologist's table, the longing to be "erased/by a taxi at 50 miles an hour," and grief at the loss of two former lovers, decades apart. Death is familiar here, yet we find softness, grace, and hope in the culinary lessons learned in warm family kitchens, in the communal laughter of a rehab center's common room, and in the rewards and pleasures of the fat erotic. With poems as malleable as the skin that "misplaced one hundred nine pounds" and filled it again, Gunn proves that, for the Black body, memory often presents the heaviest weight. Things I Didn't Do with This Body is a reminder that "carried in the body is the future, the present, and the past." The most capable thing a body can do is remember and bear it and live.
About the Author
Amanda Gunn grew up just at the edge of the woods in southern Connecticut with two older brothers. She is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, as well as a PhD candidate in English at Harvard where she studies poetry, ephemerality, and Black pleasure. Her recent work appears in Poetry, Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, and Narrative Magazine.